An essential part of every fresh manicure is the nail polish remover that transitions you from one nail design to another. A good manicure gives you stunning, decorated nails (with varying complexity based on your tastes, of course) and moisturized, supple hands. There is a necessary step between transitioning from one nail color or design to another: nail polish remover.
Whether you go to a nail tech or DIY your manicure, it is unlikely that anyone has the patience or the complete relaxed state to wait for nail polish to flake, chip and wear off completely before enjoying a new look. Choosing the best nail polish remover can be a bit difficult, but there are great commercial options and even a few DIY nail polish remover choices out there. Read on and we’ll be happy to help you choose the best option for you.
Your Guide to Using Nail Polish Remover: Contents
- 15 Best Nail Polish Removers to Buy
- Nail Polish Remover Types and Which One to Choose
- How to Remove Nail Polish Safely with or without Remover
- Nail Polish Remover Uses & Tips to Know
- DIY Nail Polish Removers to Try
Below, you’ll find the best nail polish remover options that are quite effective, but also safe for your nails.
1. Deborah Lippmann The Stripper – Nail Polish Remover
Deborah Lippmann’s The Stripper is a lavender and aloe-infused nail polish remover that hydrates nails while removing even the darkest and richest of colors with a single swipe. The bottle has a spill-proof twist lock pump to save product, only dispensing what you need. Order a bottle for yourself or pick one up from Sephora!
2. Zoya Remove+ Nail Polish Remover
Zoya’s nail polish remover is a three-in-one product in a really convenient pump-top bottle. The bottle design prevents spills and wasted product and dispenses the perfect amount when you need to use it. There are no harsh additives added like formaldehyde or toluene, and the formula still effectively removes nail polish, conditions nails and preps nails. Get a bottle for yourself from Ulta!
3. Base Coat Soy Nail Polish Remover
Base Coat’s nail polish remover is designed without acetates to prevent harsh drying of your nails and skin. The formula will still effectively remove any natural nail polish, and what’s more, it lacks the harsh scent typically associated with nail polish remover. You can order or pick up a bottle for yourself from Nordstrom.
4. Ella+Mila Soy Nail Polish Remover
This nail polish remover is enriched with vitamins and lavender essential oil. The formula is designed for effective removal of all-natural nail polishes. The formula also includes vitamins A, C & E to promote healthy, moisturized hands and nails. With this soy formula you can have clean, fresh and moisturized nails. Order yours from Ulta!
5. Context Soy Nail Polish Remover
Context’s soy nail polish remover doesn’t contain any acetone, but uses a vitamin, moisturizer and essential oil blend to nourish your nails and hands while removing all of the nail polish with little effort. The subtle citrus aroma is pleasant due to the inclusion of grapefruit essential oil. Order a bottle for yourself from Revolve!
6. Nails Inc. Gel-less Gel Nail Polish Remover Kit
Nails Inc. has created a system to help quickly remove gel nails, gel polish and even heavy glitter nail polish without requiring a long soak. The system can even be used while on the go. The acetone included in the formula won’t dry out your nails or cuticles because there are conditioners included to care for your skin. Pick a bottle up for yourself from Sephora!
7. TenOverTen Non-Acetone Polish Remover + Finishing Hand Cleanser Cloths
TenOverTen provides a good number of excellent products, and these nail polish removing cloths are excellent examples as well. The cloths include a non-toxic polish remover with a variety of conditioners for your hands and nails. Horsetail leaf extract strengthens nails, aloe and vitamin E condition nails and cuticles, and the soft, clean and fresh scent is due to the inclusion of rose fragrance. Order a set of polish remover and finishing hand cleanser cloths from Net-a-Porter!
8. OPI Expert Touch Lacquer Remover
OPI’s nail lacquer remover is well known for leaving skin and nails soft and smooth rather than dried out and messed up. The real boon of this nail polish remover is that even the darkest and glitteriest nail polishes are easy to remove, alleviating the need for excessive product use. Pick up your own bottle from Ulta!
9. Barielle Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover
Barielle’s non-acetone nail polish remover is designed to gently remove nail polish but not any of the natural oils or nutrients in your nails or cuticles. The formula specifically helps to nourish the nail beds and cuticles with vitamin E as you use it. You can order a bottle from Dermstore.
10. Sally Hansen Salon Gel Polish Acetone Remover
Sally Hansen offers a reasonably priced bottle of acetone-based salon-quality gel polish remover. The formula is no-nonsense, easily and quickly removing all traces of gel nail polish from your fingernails. To counter the drying effect that acetone can have on cuticles, the formula includes an emollient to nourish them instead. Order or pick up a bottle for yourself from Ulta!
11. Organix South Nail Polish Remover with Neem
This nail polish remover uses neem oil, witch hazel and organic aloe vera to nourish and care for your nails as you remove your nail polish. The formula works out to be low-odor, which is another benefit that only some nail polish removers can boast. Order a bottle for yourself from Amazon!
12. Red Carpet Manicure Erase
Gel nail polish is notoriously difficult to remove, which makes sense as long-wear is part of its appeal. Eventually, however, it’s going to be time to remove it, and this nail polish remover is specifically designed to remove the gel manicure without negatively affecting your natural nail or the cuticle around it. Order your bottle from Ulta!
13. Pinch Provisions Nail Polish Remover Pads
When you need to remove your old nail polish it can take a while and more than a bit of nail polish remover and cotton balls. So Pinch Provisions pads are a great option even when you are on the go. The nail polish remover pads are pre-soaked and individually wrapped for easy use, effectively removing your polish. Get yours from Revolve!
14. Londontown Kur Strengthening Lacquer Remover
Londontown’s nail polish remover is designed to safely and completely remove nail polish without acetone, but it also conditions and strengthens your nails. This is a double-duty product that is all pros and no cons. In addition to being acetone-free, it is also a cruelty-free vegan product. Order a bottle for yourself from Ulta!
15. Mountain Falls Non-Acetone Nail Polish Remover
Mountain Falls offers a nail polish remover that doesn’t contain skin-drying acetone, which is good news for your skin and nails. The ingredients are also safe for artificial nails in case you just want to change your nail color, without dissolving your whole manicure. The formula is salon-quality rated and includes vitamin E to help soften and maintain healthy cuticles. You can order yours from Amazon.
What exactly is nail polish remover and how does it work? Nail polish removers contain a solvent (typically acetone) that dissolves the hard film of color on your nails, which is comprised of the difficult-to-remove ingredients in nail polish.
Nail polishes contain resins, plasticizers, color pigments, glitter at times and film formers. This combination of ingredients is designed to give you a long-wear, gorgeous nail color. But it can be very hard to remove. Thus, nail polish remover is essential.
There are two types of nail polish remover: acetone and non-acetone. Every label will clearly state if it is acetone or non-acetone polish remover.
● Acetone nail polish remover is the most common type because it is reliably effective. Acetone is the solvent that removes the nail polish but unfortunately it also removes the natural oils from your nails and the surrounding skin. Because of this, acetone-containing nail polish removers can be kind of harsh on your nails as well as the skin and cuticles around them, especially if you have to soak your nails.
● Non-acetone nail polish removers use solvents like propylene carbonate and ethyl acetate to dissolve and remove nail polish. These solvents are less aggressive than acetone-based ones and are typically the ingredients used when the nail polish remover label reads ‘natural’ or ‘organic’. These also include ingredients like glycerin, vitamin E and aloe to moisturize your skin and nails.
Our recommendation? For the most stubborn colors, thickly applied glitters and those with a gel top coat, it is usually better to use an acetone polish remover with a conditioning agent or emollient included.
For natural, light colors and other similar options, a non-acetone remover is a good reliable option to go with. Regardless of which option you go with, make sure to cleanse and moisturize your hands afterwards, and you’re good to go.
Removing nail polish is the least fun part about wearing any color. You have to work in a well-ventilated area, it takes more than a few minutes and more than a bit of patience. This is especially true if you prefer dark, rich colors or lots of glitter and embellishments.
It is, however, a necessary step to remove your previous manicure to make way for the fresh one. So, gather your supplies: paper towels or newspaper, your choice of nail polish remover, cotton balls and pick a well-ventilated spot to get started.
● Soak a cotton round with nail polish remover by firmly placing it over the opening.
● Place the saturated cotton round over your fingernail and apply pressure for a few seconds. Rub the cotton round back and forth, then slide it from the base of your nail to the tip, taking polish off with it.
● Repeat steps 1 and 2 with as many fresh cotton rounds as you need until the polish is cleared off each fingernail, working one finger at a time.
● Once all your nails appear clear, rub a fresh cotton round with nail polish remover over each of your nails to remove remaining polish or residue that may remain.
● Thoroughly wash your hands with gentle soap and water, trying not to use anything harsh.
● Pat your hands dry and then moisturize.
Alternatively, you can pour the nail polish remover into a shallow bowl and let your nails soak, then wipe it off with a soaked cotton ball or round. This is also a good option if you are wearing a lot of glitter, gel or false nails.
So, what happens if you have to remove your nail polish and don’t have any actual nail polish remover on hand? Well there are some DIY and last-second options you can use (I’ll go into what options will work later). They require more work, but they will be effective. You can use the same process, but you’ll have to let the product soak in, typically about a minute, sometimes more before you can proceed.
There are a plethora of other, very unexpected uses for nail polish remover. Let’s be honest: if you think about the purpose that nail polish remover actually serves, the other uses for it make total sense.
● You can use nail polish remover to revitalize a bottle of nail polish that has gotten clumpy. Just add a few drops of nail polish remover to it and be careful not to thin it out too much. This will also work for old correction fluid like white-out.
● Nail polish remover will work to ink stains and permanent marker from clothes and surfaces – just be careful not to let it set as it will eat away at whatever was stained as well. It’s also a brilliant way of cleaning patent shoes.
● You can use nail polish remover to remove paint from glass, remove stickers on walls and windows and to dissolve superglue as well.
● Some people vouch for using nail polish remover as a cleaning and disinfecting agent for everything from makeup brushes to razor blades. You can even get rid of a ring around the tub with nail polish remover. You’ll still need to clean with soap and water though.
● Using a drop of acetone nail polish remover can help buff out light scratches in watches and other metal accessories. Using a mixture of one-part nail polish remover to three-parts water will help clean tiled and laminate flooring as well as removing scuff marks.
When you are drawing close to an event and have been unable to dress up our nails as well, your backup may be to just go with clean nails. But what happens if you don’t have any nail polish remover on hand. You don’t want to show up with chipped polish, so here are a few DIY nail polish remover options to help in a clinch.
Keep in mind that with most of these methods you’ll have to soak the solution on for much longer for it to be effective.
There are a few options to use as a DIY nail polish remover, but some are much better than others. Here is a quick list:
• Rubbing alcohol
• Alcoholic drinks (preferably clear)
• Hand sanitizer
• Spray-on deodorant or hair spray
• White vinegar
• Lemon juice
• White vinegar and lemon juice
• Baking soda-based basic toothpaste
• Hydrogen peroxide and hot water
Some of these options work way better than others, so I will list the most effective ones and how to use them below.
● The most effective way to remove nail polish in the absence of nail polish remover is with more nail polish. It might sound silly, but think about any time you have tried to fix a smeared nail and just smeared it worse. Make sure not to use a quick-drying polish. You need to apply the nail polish, give it a few seconds and then wipe everything off while the polish is still wet.
● Hand sanitizer and rubbing alcohol can be rubbed over the nails to pull the nail polish up. It will take a few tries, and it is important that you don’t allow it to dry on your nails. This will work better if you soak your nails in water for a few minutes first, then use an alcohol- or sanitizer-soaked cotton ball or round to rub the nails clean.
● Spray deodorant has acetone and alcohol in it, so spraying it on your nails and immediately wiping it off will help you remove your old polish.
● Vinegar and lemon juice mixed work together to be a pretty decent DIY nail polish remover. Lemon and vinegar can also work individually, but they work much, much better together. Start by soaking your nails in warm water for 10 to 15 minutes.
Then take a 1:1 mixture of lemon juice and vinegar, soak a cotton ball or round in it and press it onto your nail for a few seconds to half a minute. This will dissolve the nail polish, which you can then wipe off. You can keep doing this until your nails are clean.
● Paint thinner or remover is the least recommended option, as it is highly toxic but it will definitely remove your nail polish, and faster than the other options as well.
Photos via @_tinamaria, @aliciatnails, @asjabondareva, @valeria.chaban